This segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots features Wanda Sykes as she learns about her free black ancestors in the 1850s. Historians discover a marriage license for two of Sykes's ancestors. Slaves, because they were considered property, were not allowed to marry. Thus, historians determine Sykes's black relative listed on the marriage license was free. The segment also details how dangerous life was for free blacks before the Civil War.
Learn more about Finding Your Roots.